Ciabatta bread

CiabattaAs a lover of Itallin food, ciabatta is a bread I always enjoy, the chewy texture and the crusty outside are always a great start to a meal at our local restaurant. Strange then that I’ve never tried making it before, if you listen to the instructions on the Great British Bake Off this week it can be done in 3 hours, although if you follow the recipie in Paul Hollywood’s book Bread he adds an extra 6 hours of proving to the start to ferment the dough and increase the flavour. I followed Mr Hollywood’s recipe initially but found that the dough – which he says should resemble a batter was much too dry with the amounts listed so I added another 50ml to this. The recipe instructs you to mix up half the dough and leave to prove for 6 hours before mixing in the rest of the ingredients and beginning a more traditional prove. In all honeststy I probably wouldn’t do the first stage again, I’m sure it added an extra dimension to the flavour and the bread did come out smelling exactly like ciabatta should but I really don’t have time in day to day life to prove for 6 hrs, then 2 hrs, then another hour.

We had our ciabatta for supper on Tuesday with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I tasted lovely and had the irregular bubbles that Mr Hollywood said should be present so all in all a successful experiment.

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Picnic loaf

This week was week 3 of the 2014 Great British Bake Off, they made rye bread rolls, struggled with ciabatta and made savoury filled loaves as show stoppers. Last year the technical challenge was an apricot couronne and as a variation I made  savoury couronne with spinach, parma ham and mozzarella which seems to fit with this year’s showstopper theme. Instead of twisting the dough into a couronne shape I simply wound it into a spiral, making a more solid loaf which, hen cut reveals to pinwheels of filling inside.

Picnic loaf 2Ingredients:

500g Strong white bread flour

1 sachet fast action yeast

2 tsp salt

125ml warm whole milk

125ml warm water

30g butter (softened)

Approx 8 slices of parma ham (or normal ham if you prefer)

1-2 Large handfuls of fresh spinach

100-150g buffalo mozzarella (the kind that comes packed in brine not the grated kind)

Method:

  • Place the flour in a large bowl or freestanding mixer bowl.
  • Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the opposite side. Mix thoroughly.
  • Mix 125ml of whole milk and 125ml of water in a microwavable jug and heat for approx 40 seconds (try 20 seconds at a time to avoid over heating).
  • Gradually add the warm milk & water to the flour mixture and stir with the wooden spoon (or fingers) until all the flour is picked up. Depending on how moist or dry your flour is you might need slightly more / less water.
  • Once all the flour is picked up add the softened butter and knead for at least 10 minutes. I let my stand mixer do this for me with a dough hook but it can also be done by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place in a clean oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to rise for at least an hour and a half until doubled in size.
  • Tip the risen dough onto a floured surface and knock back (knead out the air). Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a long thin rectangle. (It will try to spring back but persevere).
  • Lay out the Parma ham then add the spinach to cover the ham. (The spinach will release quite a bit of water when cooking so don’t add too much.)
  • Break the mozzarella into marble sized pieces and dot across the dough then add the fresh basil leaves.
  • Roll the dough into a long sausage shape then wind it into a spiral.
  • Place on a greased and floured baking tray and leave to rise for 45 minutes covered with a tea towel.
  • Preheat the oven to 180c.
  • Brush the top with beaten egg and bake for 25 minutes at 180c – the bottom of the lof should sound hollow when tapped.

Picnic loaf

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Hansel and Gretel Gingerbread Cottage

Hansel and GretelWeek two of the Great British Bake Off was biscuit week, with showstoppers of free standing biscuit scenes. Before I even saw the show I knew I wanted to make a gingerbread house for the Great Bloggers Bake Off, it may not be as inventive as some of the bakers on the show but it is something my kids love. When making these before I’ve always used giant chocolate buttons for the roof tiles, this time I went a step further (imagining the look on Mary Berry’s face at the thought of bought chocolate buttons) and made tempered chocolate roof tiles in alternating milk and white chocolate. I also melted sugar to make the window panes. The chocolate coated beans were bought and I’m not sure if using a lollipop stick for the witch is strictly allowed but since I’m not really in the bake off tent I’m giving myself the benefit of the doubt!

To make the 3D trees I used a normal tree cutter then cut out sections from the middle to allow them to interlock. Hansel and Gretel are made wide enough to stand up using 2 biscuits attached back to back with royal icing. The witch has a lollipop stick pushed in immediately she comes out of the oven before the biscuit hardens, Her decoration is done using a technique called flooding where lines are piped around the shape and then the inner sections flooded with a slightly runnier icing. I used star biscuits to make the tree she is flying over and used a lolipop stick to put a hole in each as it came out of the oven, when decorated and stacked with royal icing to hold it together the tree forms a stand to hold the witch up. The weights given below make enough dough for this biscuit scene plus enough extra that if you break a piece you can make another, the dough can be frozen or you could make extra trees or animals once you have safely made your cottage. The royal icing is to join biscuits together, the water icing is for decoration. To make the window panes you will need a sugar thermometer.

Ingredients:

700g Plain flour

3 tsp bicarbonate of soda

3 tsp ground ginger

200g Butter

350g light muscavado sugar

8 tablespoons golden syrup (and a small dish of vegetable / corn oil to dip the spoon in)

2 eggs (beaten)

pre-heat the oven to 180c

To decorate:

Mini smarties

Water icing and gel colours (white, green, black)

100g castor sugar & 100ml water

Royal icing (1/2 of a 500g packet)

200g White chocolate

200g Milk chocolate

 

Method:

  • Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger into a bowl.
  • Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Sieve in the sugar to remove any lumps then stir in.
  • Dip your tablespoon in the oil to stop the golden syrup sticking then add the golden syrup to the egg and beat to combine.
  • Gradually stir the syrup mixture into the dry ingredients.
  • Mix into a smooth dough.
  • Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and roll out.
  • Cut out your biscuits and place on buttered baking trays. The template I used for the house is from BBC Goof Food and can be found here (you will need to print out 2 copies in order to cut out all the pieces).
  • Use small heart or circle cutters to add windows and a knife to add a door.
  • Bake at 180c and trim the edges with a sharp knife imediately the pieces come out of the oven while they are still soft. Use the templates again to ensure the correct size but do be careful as the biscuits will be hot.
  • Cooking times may vary for different ovens but I  found the following times worked.
    Trees and figures =8 – 10 minutes (remember to puch the lollipop stick into the witch biscuit as soon as it comes out of the oven).
    Side of house = 14 minutes   *trim edges
    Gable ends of house = 16 minutes
    Roof of house = 18 minutes
  • Cool on wire racks before decorating.

Decoration:

  • Hansel and Gretel collageFirst make the window panes for the house -
    Place the castor sugar and water in a pan and heat to 150c using a sugar thermometer then pour window panes onto a foil covered baking tray (I needed 4)
  • Mix the royal icing then once the window panes have set attach them to the back of the gable ends using the royal icing.
  • While the window panes set in place temper the white and milk chocolate and pipe onto greaseproof paper to make the roof tiles.
  • Once the window panes have set in place assemble the cottage using the royal icing. Place the gable ends between the outer walls so that a ledge is created to rest the roof on while it sets. Only attach the roof once the walls have begun to set.
  • While the house sets decorate the trees, witch and children.
  • Attach the roof tiles in alternating layers with royal icing.
  • Add detail to the cottage with water icing.
  • Finally add mini smarties around the window and door frames.
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August’s Celebration Cakes And Bakes with July’s Roundup

frozen cake 3The summer holidays are here and they’re the last ones before my son starts school. He turns 5 in September and has asked for a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cake and party. I’m busy scouring Pintrest for ideas as I don’t want him to feel he gets any less fuss than his sister had for her Frozen Party. My daughter’s 2 part Frozen themed cake made up the first two entries in July’s Celebration Cakes and Bakes. She had a vanilla Ice palace cake and a chocolate In Summer cake.

frozen cake 4

The next entry was a birthday cake that looks exactly like the cake from Minecraft made by Jo of Opposable thumbs. If you haven’t heard of it Minecraft is a sandbox game where you can build thing with different types of blocks. Older children / adults can fight off monsters, or for younger children you can have a peaceful existence with no scary things going bump in the night.

Next was a gorgeously rich looking chocolate birthday cake from the Chocolate log blog topped with lemon curd and strawberries.

Finally we have a stunning heart patterned swiss roll made by Winnie from Something Sweet. I think this would have been worthy of appering on The Great British Bake Off it looks so pretty.

If you have a bake you’re particularly proud of why not join in with the link below, the rules are simple:

You must have made the bake yourself – no buying from the local cake shop.

It must be a post about making the bake – it doesn’t have to be a full on recipe but it does need to be in the spirit of the thing.

It doesn’t need to be a new post it could be one from last year, but if it’s a seasonal celebration bake it should be appropriate – so no Easter cakes at Christmas, save them for springtime.

Posts must include the Celebration Cakes & Bakes badge (grab the code below)

Please comment on a few of the other entries – remember linkys only work if you spread the linky love!

That’s it everything else is optional.

If you follow me on twitter @jaisee_mummy and tweet me with the hashtag #CelebrationCakesAndBakes I will retweet any entries that I see.

Because this month I’m late posting the linky will run until August 31st.

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Chocolate and vanilla swiss roll

Chocolate and vanilla swiss rollSo the Great British Bake Off is back for another year and last night saw the bakers challenged with cakes. Swiss rolls, cherry cake and miniature British classics. In celebration of the bake off the Great Blogger’s Bake Off is also starting up again and my first recipe for it is this chocolate and vanilla version of a swiss roll adapted from a Mary Berry recipe in the book she signed for me last year. It’s partly inspired by those cadbury mini-rolls that have been around forever. I remember them from years ago and always liked them although I couldn’t tell you when I last had one. This is my attempt to make a giant one.

The sponge is striped chocolate and vanilla, and the filling is striped milk and white chocolate ganache. Finally the whole cake is covered in dark chocolate and white chocolate stars.

Ingredients

For the cake:

100g Castor sugar

4 Large eggs (beaten)

1 tsp Vanilla essence

100g Self raising flour

25g Cocoa powder

For the filling:

100g White chocolate

100g Milk Chocolate

50ml Double cream

200g Dark chocolate

White chocolate stars or similar to decorate

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 220c
  • In a free standing mixer whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla essence using a balloon whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture is stiff enough to leave soft peaks when the whisk lifts out.
  • Sift in the flour a little at a time, folding gently by hand to keep the air in the mixture.
  • Split the mixture in half and sift the cocoa powder into one half, folding as with the flour.
  • You should now have a vanilla mix and a chocolate mix.
  • Grease and line a baking tray with a raised edge with greaseproof paper, then grease the paper itself to stop it from sticking.
  • Place your two mixtures into jugs and pour stripes of the mixture into the tray.
  • Use a skewer to drag across the stripes and produce an attractive pattern as below.
    Chocolate and vanilla swiss roll batter 2
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes. The sponge should be firm but only lightly coloured.
  • Once the cake is cooked score a line about 1cm from the end and roll up the sponge while it is hot. This will help it to roll later once it is cooled and filled.
  • While the cake is cooling melt the white and milk chocolate in separate bowls.
  • Add 25ml of double cream to the white and stir until the mixture thickens. Repeat this for the milk chocolate.
  • Pipe alternating lines of white and milk chocolate ganache onto the cooled cake then re-roll it and wrap firmly in several layers of cling film to help it settle into shape. The ganche will set and help hold the shape once the clingfilm is removed. Leave for at least an hour.
  • After at least an hour melt the dark chocolate and cut the clingfilm off the cake.
  • Pour the melted chocolate over the the cake and use a silicone pastry brush to help coat the cake with the chocolate.
  • Sprinkle the cake with the chocolate stars and leave to set – if the weather is particularly warm you may need to place the cake in the fridge. Only do this if really necessary as setting chocolate in a fridge can cause it to “bloom” and show whitish marks.
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  • Thanks to Jenny Paulin for hosting the great bloggers bake off!

 

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Rainbow cookies

rainbow cookies 4These soft chewy cookies are a firm favourite in our house, so much so that a batch of 60 small cookies is unlikely to last the week. I recently shared a random photo of a batch cooling on wire racks with Stork (@bakewithstork) on twitter as part of their #storkpassiton monthly draw. Last month the prize was a Kenwood stand mixer and amazingly I won it!! It arrived this week as is gorgeous so I thought I would share the recipe for my cookies. Why not have a go at making some then share a photo with them using the #storkpassiton hashtag and see if you’re lucky too.

Ingredients

225g Stork Margarine

200g Light muscavado sugar

150g Castor sugar

2 Large eggs (beaten)

1 tsp Vanilla extract

400g Plain flour

1/2 tsp Salt

2 and a half tsp Bicarbonate of soda

100g Dark chocolate chips / chopped chocolate

100g Smarties or other candy coated chocolate beans either full size or mini.

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 170c.
  • Cream the margarine and sugar in a freetsanding mixer.
  • Add the vanilla extract to the beaten eggs then add little by little to the buttercream mixture.1
  • In a separate bowl mix together the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Gradually add the dry ingredients while mixing on a slow speed.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips and smarties.
  • Grease 2 – 4 baking trays (depending on how many shelves you have in your oven) and place small balls of the biscuit mixture on the trays – I tend to fit 9 to 12 balls per tray depending on the shape.
    Rainbow cookie collage
  • Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, the cookies will spread while they bake and should still be chewy once they have cooled.

rainbow cookies 5

 

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A weekend at Thomas Land and Drayton Manor

frozen cupcakes 1So in the last month there have one or two mentions of my daughter’s birthday party but I haven’t had chance to share what we got up to as a family to spoil her rotten. There was a birthday with presents, cupcakes (of course) and a trip to a local farm where you can meet the animals, and there was the weekend before where we went away as a family and stayed in a hotel with the kids for the very first time.

Of course we’ve been away before but it’s always been self catering – this was the first time that we’ve been brave enough to go somewhere without a kitchen and a separate bedroom for the munchkins. We decided to go to Thomas Land as we went last year for a special showing of the King Of The railway Thomas film and the kids loved it. Thomas Land is part of the Drayton Manor theme park in Tamworth Staffordshire and has a lovely hotel right opposite the entrance. The Drayton Manor hotel has lots of Thomas the Tank Engine themed areas including figures as you walk into the foyer and engines on the walls of the landing areas. You can stay in standard family rooms or upgrade to themed Thomas the Tank engine rooms for that extra special experience. When we visited they had entertainers for the kids in the evenings on Saturday and Sunday and over the summer holidays they will have nightly entertainment. A play area with swings and other wood built equipment is available and our kids had a great time playing each night.Drayton manor Collage2#

If you’re looking for a short break with your family I would highly recommend a weekend spent here. we travelled down on the Friday, stayed overnight and went into the park all day Saturday. We chose to stay an extra night and travel home on the Sunday morning meaning we got home in time for lunch with no rushing and no overtired kiddies. The whole experience in the hotel was great once we figured out that we had to scan our room keys to make the lifts work. Breakfast was a buffet style which was great fr the kids and during dinner there were train tables for the kids to play with (just remember to bring your own engines).

The park itself is great for both young and older children, our 3 and 4 year old loved the big wheel, the trains and the helicopter ride. When they’re older I’m sure they will love the roller coasters and the giant log flume, although I May be sending them on those with their dad!!

Drayton Manor Collage 4

We received a discounted room rate in return for reviewing our experience however all opinions are our own.

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July’s Celebration Cakes And Bakes

frozen cake 3Thanks for stopping by and welcome to July’s Celebration Cakes And Bakes Linky. This is where I ask you to link up posts about any special cakes you’ve made and want to share. For me last month was all about my daughter’s 3rd birthday – she wanted a frozen party and I was making everything from Ice And Snow Jelly Shots to Snowflake Cookie Trees but my main achievement was succeeding in making a Frozen Ice Palace and In Summer cake for my demanding little angel.

A vanilla multicoloured sponge for the Ice Palace and a rich chocolate cake for the In Summer section – my little girl was so so happy with her “Anna Cake”.

But back to the Linky, It’s about cakes that you’re proud of and want to share.

If you’re inspired by these lovely cakes why not link up your own creation below?

The rules:

You must have made the bake yourself – no buying from the local cake shop.

It must be a post about making the bake – it doesn’t have to be a full on recipe but it does need to be in the spirit of the thing.

It doesn’t need to be a new post it could be one from last year, but if it’s a seasonal celebration bake it should be appropriate – so no Easter cakes at Christmas, save them for springtime.

Posts must include the Celebration Cakes & Bakes badge (grab the code below)

Please comment on a few of the other entries – remember linkys only work if you spread the linky love!

That’s it everything else is optional.

If you follow me on twitter @jaisee_mummy and tweet me with the hashtag #CelebrationCakesAndBakes I will retweet any entries that I see.

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June’s Celebration Cakes and Bakes roundup

Last month was a lovely month for Celebration Cakes and bakes with wonderful summery cakes linked up. My absolute favourite was the Sandcastle Cake made by Kirsty from Hijacked By Twins, it looked like it would be right at home on a beach and even had edible flags on top!

The first cake I added last month was a Ruby Anniversary cake made for my parents. A vanilla sponge with covered in fondant and decorated with spun sugar.

Ruby anniversary cake

Next comes a wonderfully colourful Rainbow Cake made by Becky at The Laughing Owls, For a first time rainbow cake I think it is fab and I’m sure her two year old was delighted to have it as a birthday cake.

The next cake is inspired by one of my favourite ever desserts, Eton Mess. An Eton Mess Chocolate Cake from Chocolate Log blog for her friend’s birthday – This kind of cake just says summer-time to me and looks so simple and delicious.

Another gorgeous summery cake was added by Ros from The More Than Occaisional Baker. A White Chocolate and Cardamom Cake topped with beautiful seasonal strawberries.

Finally we have a birthday cake with a difference – because it was made for a stuffed animal! My decided it was Simba from the Lion King’s birthday so of course we had to make him a carrot cake birthday cake – we even sang happy birthday and blew out the candles! Here is Simba’s Birthday Cake.

Simba cakeIf you’ve made a cake you’re particularly proud of why not link up to July’s Celebration Cakes and Bakes?

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Mint Chocolate Chip Muffins

mint choc chip cakes 3This week the unthinkable happened and we ran out of cake and biscuits! My son got sent to preschool with dried fruit for his pudding yesterday and was not impressed, so while the kids were eating tea I quickly whipped up some yummy mint chocolate chip muffins for them.  (makes 10 large cupcakes / muffins)

Ingredients:

125g Unsalted butter (softened)

125g Castor sugar

2 Large eggs (beaten)

2 tsp Peppermint extract

110g Self raising flour

15g Good quality cocoa powder

A few tablespoons of whole milk

50g Dark Chocolate roughly chopped

50g White chocolate chips / white chocolate roughly chopped

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 c
  • Set out 10 muffin cases in Muffin trays
  • In a free standing mixer cream the softened butter an sugar
  • In a separate bowl stir together the flour and cocoa powder
  • Add the mint extract to the beaten eggs and gradually add the eggs to the butter cream with  spoonful of flour to stabilize the mix.
  • Gradually fold in the rest of the flour
  • Add milk slowly until the mixture falls easily from a spoon / spatula
  • Stir in the dark and white chocolate chips.
  • Spoon the mixture into the 10 prepared muffin cases
  • Bake in the preheated 180c oven for approximately 15 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean (apart from any melted chocolate it catches).

mint choc chip cakes 2

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